Ask Jo: Copyright

Every so often questions and comments come from readers that I think others would like to hear my response to.  That’s when I feature them on the blog.  This is one of those days

Oh my.  My Frolic leftover quilt had several of you worried and concerned and pretty skeptical about me.

I got this from Ellen:
You mention this morning that you are going to do a tutorial on making the blocks for this new fabulous quilt.  I wouldn’t want you in trouble with Bonnie but that is surely a copyright infringement?

For a refresher, I took leftovers from Bonnie Hunter’s Frolic mystery, added other things to is and came up with a new quilt.  Here is the quilt.


Here is a closer look at the blocks.

Here is my Frolic quilt.  Each quilt has star blocks and the star blocks are not the same.  Notice how the original Frolic blocks have half square triangles in the corners.  Notice how my blocks are completely scrappy and the same pinks and the same blues are not used throughout the individual block.  The same can be said for the aqua/light blues.  All of them are different.  They are completely not the same prints.  Bonnies are.


Did you notice in my quilt that I made blocks with a white background?  Bonnie’s quilt has none.

Janette B wrote:
Wouldn’t it be a copyright infringement to produce a quilt pattern for a magazine if most of the quilt is made with leftovers of Bonnie’s Frolic quilt pattern?

For a refresher, these are the pieces I sorted through…I see four patches:  No copyright on four patches
I see half square triangles:  No copyright on those
I see flying geese:  No copyright on those

I see cut quarter square triangles:  No copyright on that.

Nothing here is “Bonnie’s”  all of these are simply quilt pieces.  There is no trademark on them.  The pieces are nothing until they are put together and I didn’t even put them together the same way Bonnie did.

Aside from the same color and the quilts using star blocks, there isn’t anything else the same.  I have not infringed on anyone’s copyright.

ALSO…important to note:
Copyright only applies to the written words of the pattern.  Sad, but true. It does not apply to the quilt itself.  Anyone can take any pattern, make it, and rewrite directions.  Nice, no.  Appropriate, NO.  I wouldn’t do that…but, that’s how copyright works.  The colors in a quilt are not copyright.  Stars in a quilt are not copyright-besides, as I said, the star blocks aren’t even the same.

It’s important to know that even if my star block was EXACTLY like Bonnie’s, it’s still not a copyright issue.  Long ago some lady in a little log cabin likely made the first log cabin quilt block.  Her family is not out and after all of us for publishing a quilt pattern that has a log cabin block in it.  A quilt block does not have a copyright.

There are no completely original quilts left to make in this world…Look at Bonnie’s quilt.  We’ve all seen quilts with triangle borders before.  We’ve all seen quilts with star blocks.  Everything that is made is somehow inspired by previous generations.

My plan is still to do a tutorial for the quilt blocks that I used in this quilt. I have zero concerns when it comes to copyright between the two quilts. Until someone shows me the copyright for using a half square triangle in a quilt, I think I’m pretty safe.

Please don’t worry about any infringement on copyright. But if you still are worried, feel free to contact Bonnie, but I’m positive she’ll say something very similar to what I said.  After all, both of us have had to deal with people with and without copyright concerns.

25 thoughts on “Ask Jo: Copyright

  1. Jazz

    You have enough to be concerned about, Jo, than to have to teach copyright law to your readers. Your quilt is beautiful. You are, too.

    Reply
  2. Shannon Martin

    This may sound like an odd inquiry, but here goes! I have been peeking in on your site for only a few months. You are quite inspirational!! Your work is amazing! I’ve been working with cross stitch since I was 10. My mother always had handwork in her hands. If we sat down, she pulled something out, always. My little sister pulled out a book and chatty me just talked to anyone I could capture! Then I got shy…. asked my mom to teach me cross stitch. I’m now in my late 50’s, I quilt, sew, machine and hand embroidery, and crochet. Yet, still I always have at least two cross stitch projects tucked next to me. It remains my fave. Yikes, too much info! Sorry!! I am in love with your Anniversaries of the Heart. It has always been a desire of mine to do a stitchery with a church in the center, my fave verse surrounding it. Surrounded by my son’s homes, family homes and friend’s homes. Having said ALL of that, my question is about the patterns. My hubby and i have been out of work a little over a year, by the grace of God, we have not lost out home and stayed afloat. I cannot purchase the patterns, so you know of anyone who would rent me their pattern? Or sell it for a very friendly price? I have done this with some of the quilt and embroidery patterns, but i have not seen it or heard of it in cross stitch. Soooo many words for one simple question!!! Thank you in advance for any advice or direction that you could send me in!

    Reply
  3. Cindy Petko

    Jo, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your great family!! I do read your blog every day and pray for you as well! I cannot believe people would question you and your integrity ! What a time we are living in now!

    Reply
  4. Kate

    Jo, your answer to the copyright questions is great! Looking forward to seeing the tutorial when you are able to do it.

    Reply
  5. Beverly D

    I have to admit that I wondered the same thing at first. But then I realized that 1) it’s not the same quilt, and 2) if there were any copyright infringements, a magazine would not publish it. Copyright pertains to published material, not just written.

    Reply
  6. Angie

    Never bought about copyright until it was mentioned and looking at both quilts, only colors are similar to me. Everything else is different. I have leftovers from published patterns and used them in other projects and that is what you have done. Good job, Jo. Your quilt is beautiful.

    Reply
  7. Susan the Farm Quilter

    Even though you would not violate copyright laws, it is nice to have a reminder for all of us to not steal the intellectual property of others. Your explanation is excellent and helpful to people who read the copyright laws without the benefit of a law degree, because it is very confusing (as are all laws!) because those who write the laws are lawyers and they do need to keep their colleagues in business! Love your quilt and I can’t wait for the instructions!

    Reply
    1. Lisa B

      Oh my goodness, it’s no different than when i misread a pattern and i make too many blocks and i rearrange them into a new design so they don’t go to waste. That’s all you did in this case. Yes you said they were coming from the Frolic quilt by Bonnie Hunter but that was it. It is just like when any of your blog readers send you a bag of leftover pieces and you creatively put it together in a quilt. And a beautiful quilt it is! Great job on both the quilt and your gracious response.

      Reply
  8. Donna M

    The only time I have called out someone online was a person on Facebook actually gave the dimensions of the quilt pieces for Bonnie’s Bit Coin Quilt. It’s the only piece in the quilt. I thought that was wrong. Basically, you were just using scraps, parts, and pieces in this quilt. It is a beautiful quilt design, too.

    Reply
  9. Samantha M

    Copyright didn’t even occur to me when I saw your quilt, all I thought was “what a stunning quilt “! You shouldn’t have to spend your time and energy explaining to people who feel the need to tell others how to live their lives.
    It’s a beautiful quilt, end of.

    Reply
  10. Jenny

    I go way back in the quilt world, use to go to all the Mary Ellen Hopkins workshops for shop owners as I owned a quilt shop. I remember Mary Ellen talking about Bonnie coping her ideas and work when she, Bonnie first started doing her thing. They always say what goes round comes round. Enjoy your blog and have been praying for healing for you and peace as you deal with your cancer. You are an inspiration.

    Reply
  11. Carol Stearns

    I assume that Bonnie would be thrilled with your use of all the leftovers! There is not a quilt block or pattern that doesn’t have something similar to something else. Your quilt is lovely.

    Reply
  12. Lisa

    ROFL!!! Oh my, Jo! People never cease to amaze me! I have several old quilting magazines that have patterns by others that Bonnie has free patterns for on her site. Those wonky houses for one!!! Yes ma’am! Those magazines I have are older than the internet. LOL! Anywhoooo…I see people all over the internet giving her credit for dead people’s patterns and I just shake my head. So many of us out here are awake and know that you have done nothing wrong. I will never forget when Bonnie had all of her followers on the Yahoo group she started for her first mystery when several mysteries down the road she thought Pat Sloan had stolen one of her patterns and she publicly on that group asked all of us to send hate emails to Pat. Then a couple of days later, she found out that she was very very very wrong and had to make an apology to Pat. People need to quit drinking that kool-aid. Jo, you have great morals and ethics and I am sorry to hear that yours were questioned. I can’t wait for you tutorial!

    Reply
    1. Deborah A Stevens

      Unfortunately , the very first time I visited a quiltville site, I landed in the middle of that debate. A huge rant about someone using a pattern. Really soured me on quiltville and I rarely visit and never do a sew along or mystery.

      Reply
  13. Gail

    I think the big thing for everyone is that you referred to the blocks as leftover Frolic blocks. I guess if you had said “leftover star blocks from another quilt” people would not have thrown themselves on the panic button. I wonder if the magazine you approached sensed people’s fears, and in turn, feared they would be attacked if they published your quilt. It is stunning and I was surprised they never picked it up.

    Reply
  14. Deborah A Stevens

    Unfortunately the first time I landed on quiltville, I landed in the middle of a huge article slamming someone for not crediting quiltville. Really soured me on quiltville . I dont do mysteries, sew alongs or visit the site much.

    Reply
  15. CA Bobbie

    I’ve read all the comments and have to “ditto” all the supportive ones. Has ANYONE in the quilting world-including the ones who wrote about copyright infringement- made a project using UFO blocks????
    I commented before and will repeat I’m so happy you will be doing a tutorial. Al my support and my prayers for you and your adorable family.

    Reply
  16. Joy

    Oh wow! One of the reasons I stay off of social media is because of the drama, yet here we have people bashing Bonnie Hunter for mistakes(?) she may have made in the past. I’ve been reading this blog and Bonnie’s for a few years now and would like to point out that Bonnie’s main income is from her patterns, classes and retreat. Jo also profits from pattern sales and from publication rights and also has an income from her childcare business. Does this make one better than the other? No! Both generously offer a number of free patterns on their blogs with the understanding that you are free to use them as long as you give credit to the creator of the quilt pattern.

    Maybe instead of bugging Jo with copyright infringement concerns, anyone with questions could try using a search engine instead.

    Reply

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